Scranton Times Tribune
A Senate Republican leader and two colleagues unveiled anti-gang legislation Monday, building momentum for a public safety issue raised by legislators from Northeast Pennsylvania.
Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-9, Chester, and Sens. John Rafferty, R-44, Collegeville, and Ted Erickson, R-26, Drexel Hill; propose creating a new criminal offense of “recruiting gang members” and toughening penalties for specific crimes involving violence or drugs that benefit the interests of criminal street gangs.
They developed the bills in cooperation with Chester County District Attorney Thomas P. Hogan who is prosecuting individuals for the fatal stabbing of two rival gang leaders.
“It has become apparent that we need to provide our prosecutors with new tools to combat the spread of gang violence,” Mr. Pileggi said. “This legislation will help prevent young people from getting started in gang activity.”
This initiative from southeastern Pennsylvania will complement efforts by a bipartisan group of Northeast lawmakers to push legislation to deter gang activity.
“You couldn’t have three better partners to advance these common ideas,” said state Sen. John Yudichak, D-14, Nanticoke, who is leading the “Operation Gangup” initiative with U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-11, Hazleton.
Bills recently introduced by Mr. Yudichak and other area lawmakers give the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing authority to provide tougher sentences for certain offenses where a gang is involved.
Mr. Yudichak said anti-gang legislation will get more attention in Harrisburg with the three GOP senators at the forefront. Mr. Pileggi understands neighborhood issues as a former Chester mayor, and as floor leader controls the movement of bills, he added.
Mr. Pileggi’s legislation would create three categories in the recruiting gang members offense. Individuals who solicit or invite a person to join a gang or remain in one will commit a first-degree misdemeanor. Using threats or intimidation to cause a person to join a gang or remain will be a third-degree felony. A tougher sentence can be handed down if someone inflicts bodily harm to get a person to join or stay in a gang.
At least 20 states have laws making it a crime to recruit gang members.